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Choosing the Best Seafood for Your Family

By Alysa Ferguson

Seafood is delicious and can be very good for your family’s health. But choosing fish that is healthy, safe, and sustainable to the environment is a difficult task. The best choices would be high in omega-3 fats, low in mercury, and preferably not damaging to our oceans. Here is a list of fish that are low in mercury with no major caveats:

  • Anchovies (European)*
  • Catfish (US)
  • Clams (farmed and US wild)
  • Crab, King (US)
  • Crab, stone
  • Crayfish/Crawfish (US farmed)
  • Herring, Atlantic (US)*
  • Lobster, spiny (CA, FL & Mexico)
  • Mussels (farmed)
  • Oysters (farmed & wild)    Pollock, Alaska (US)
  • Salmon, Wild (from AK, CA, OR, & WA)*
  • Sardines, Pacific (Canada & US)*
  • Scallops (farmed or wild)
  • Shrimp (Canada or US wild)
  • Soles (Canada & US)
  • Squid
  • Striped Bass
  • Tilapia

(*High in omega-3)

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week, so aim to have at least one of these be wild salmon, sardines, herring or anchovies for a healthy dose of omega-3’s. To keep the seafood healthy, limit deep-frying and butter sauce. Stick with baking, broiling, grilling, steaming, or even sautéing in a small amount of olive oil, and season with lemon, herbs and spices, or other low-sodium flavorings.

If you’re not a fish-eater you can get omega-3 from plant sources, such as walnuts, canola oil, flaxseed, soybeans and tofu. While these foods are very good for you and your family, they provide a different type of omega-3 that might not convey the same health benefits as the type from fish. Many have turned to omega-3 fish oil supplements, but unless you have high triglycerides, the research is lacking on whether this is of benefit to you or your family. New research is on the way…stay tuned for updates on this and similar topics.

Alysa Ferguson is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and family health educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 342 or at

Do as you say and say as you do!

By Kerri Kreh Reda

As your child’s first teacher, you teach her many things – how to talk, feed herself, dress herself and how to use the toilet.  You make a conscious effort to teach these skills.  What you may not realize is that you also teach many other things unintentionally by the example you set for your child.

Children are born mimics; they imitate the adults they love.  Children are constantly watching and learning without parents realizing the effects they have on their children.  Usually children learn as much from your actions or inaction, as they do from your words.  They learn how to behave by seeing how their parents behave and follow that example.  If your child isn’t listening to what you are telling him, consider instead what you are showing him.

You can tell children to read books, but the most effective teaching you can do is to show them that you love books.  If your child sees you reading, she is more likely to read.  If you listen to others and communicate respectfully, so will your child.  If your child hears you thinking through problems, listing solutions and considering options, he is likely to adopt a similar approach to problem solving.  If you say “please” and “thank you” your children will learn good manners.  If you manage stress and express emotions in a healthy way, your children will learn these skills also.

What do you hope to model for your children?  Perhaps traits such as responsibility, kindness, dependability, and honesty are important to you.  Maybe issues of health such as wearing a seat belt, using sunscreen, eating well and being active are messages you want to send.  Thinking about the kind of adult you hope your child will become can help you think about the kind of role model you want to be.

It is important to remember that parents are human and therefore not perfect.  We make mistakes, lose our tempers, have bad habits and may fail to set the perfect example.  What is important is that we do our best, admit our mistakes and resolve to do better.  Being a positive role model is one of the most important and rewarding things you can do for your child.


“Parents can teach, but the most powerful teaching comes in modeling the behavior you want your children to copy.”  Ohio State University Extension “Do as I Do: Parents as Nutritional Role Models.

“The only way to raise a decent human being is by being one.”  Eda LeShan 1988.  The best-kept secret about discipline. Parents, March

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Suffolk. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 x. 330 or at

What Parents of Pre-Teens Should Really Worry About

By Tim Jahn

Raising a pre-teen today can be pretty nerve-wracking.  Whenever a young person brings a gun to school or is lured into a dangerous rendezvous by an online predator, the headlines shock the general public and terrify parents of pre-teens and teens.  Every week brings some news that distresses parents – youth gangs, designer drugs, teen runaways, school violence and Internet threats.

Parents of pre-teens have plenty of other worries.  How is my son adjusting to middle school?  Will my daughter resist peer pressure to smoke or be sexually active?  How do I handle body piercing and tattoos? Add in all the normal stuff of growing up – puberty, friends, grades and moodiness – and it’s no wonder some parents wish for the good old days of the terrible two’s.

While teen sex and violence grab most of the headlines, the real risks to most pre-teens don’t show up on parental radar screens.  In fact, parents and teachers can become so preoccupied with drugs, gangs and guns, they fail to notice the everyday hazards in the lives of pre-teens. What should parents of pre-teens really worry about?  Here are some of the biggest risks according to research studies.

  • Most pre-teens are injured or die as the result of preventable accidents.  Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 10-14, mostly from accidents involving motor vehicles.  Less than 20% of pre-teens and 1% of teens wear safety helmets when bicycling, skateboarding or roller-blading.  Teach your pre-teen to wear safety helmets, use seat belts and be an alert pedestrian in traffic.
  • Being home without adult supervision for three or more hours regularly is a major risk factor. Most early experimentation with smoking, alcohol and drug use, and sex happens in the hours right after school.  Make arrangements for some level of adult supervision for your pre-teen after school.
  • Teenage depression is a serious problem that afflicts as many as 20% of young people and is often unrecognized because of the mood swings and moodiness that are typical of adolescence.  But if you notice prolonged periods of sadness and withdrawal, get help as soon as possible.

Tim Jahn is a Human Ecology Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. He can be reached at 631-727-7850 x. 331 or at

Summer Nutrition: Safe and Healthy Eating in the Sun

By Alysa Ferguson

Summertime is great for barbeques, picnics, and fresh produce (think grilled vegetables with your meal and watermelon for dessert!). However, fun-in-the-sun eating also means taking some extra precautions to ensure your family’s food is safe to eat. The warmer temperatures create a perfect environment for bacteria and other pathogens to multiply rapidly, increasing the chance of foodborne illness. Here are some tips to survive the summer heat:

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold – Potentially hazardous foods, such as dishes containing meat or dairy ingredients, left out in the danger zone (40-140°F) for longer than 2 hours must be thrown out. If the temperature outside is above 90°F, you only have 1 hour before food could become contaminated.
  • Grilling etiquette – Marinating is a great way to add flavor and minimize harmful chemicals produced during the grilling process. Always marinate food in the refrigerator and never re-use the leftover marinade without reheating to boiling. Use a food thermometer to ensure your food reaches a safe internal temperature: hamburgers should be cooked to 160°F, steaks to 145°F, and poultry to 165°F. When taking foods off the grill, do not put cooked food back on the same plate that held raw food.
  • Cooler Tips – Pack plenty of ice or freezer packs to keep the cooler full and ensure a constant cold temperature. Keep the cooler out of the direct sun as much as possible. Keep beverages in a separate cooler than the food since it will be opened more frequently.

So go ahead and plan that barbeque, picnic, or beach day. Bring lots of water and, as always, try to feed your family fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Be safe and don’t forget the sunscreen!


Avoiding The Food “Danger Zone” When It is Hot Outside.

Alysa Ferguson is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and family health educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 342 or at

Dignity at School, Dignity at Home

By Timothy Jahn

The Dignity for All Students Act or DASA was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Paterson in 2010 and became effective July 1, 2012.  Under this law, schools are required to provide a school environment free from discrimination and harassment which is defined as verbal threats, intimidation or abuse that has or would have the effect of unreasonably and substantially interfering with a student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being, or cause a student to fear for his or her physical safety.

In addition to amending codes of conduct, all schools must inform students about anti-harassment policies in plain, age-appropriate language, train all faculty and staff, and provide instruction in civility, citizenship and character education.  At least one employee is designated as the DASA Coordinator (DAC) who is available to students and staff to handle issues of bullying and harassment. The law specifically forbids discrimination and harassment based on: race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, religious practices, mental and physical abilities, and weight.

What parents can do at school

Here are some steps parents can take to assist with creating a school environment free from harassment:

  1. Read all materials from the school, especially the Student Code of Conduct and the Parent-Student Handbook, paying particular attention to information on DASA.
  2. Attend any Open House or Parent Orientation meetings and ask about DASA if specific information is not shared.
  3. Participate in your PTO and work together with other parents to learn about DASA.
  4. Know the DAC and initiate a relationship especially if your child is vulnerable to bullying or has a history of being victimized.
  5. Talk to your child about DASA and how he or she should behave in school.

What parents can do at home

In addition to being informed advocates for their children at school, parents can create a home environment that supports their child’s dignity.  Here are some tips to get started:

  1.  Be a role model for sensitivity and tolerance.  Refusing to entertain gossip or racist jokes is a good start.
  2. Avoid labels.  While you may think calling your child irresponsible or lazy will motivate her, it may only reinforce the negative names she is called at school
  3. Be careful with criticism. If you are unhappy with your child’s behavior or effort, say “I’m not happy,” then focus on a plan for improvement, using lots of encouragement.
  4. Allow your child to have his own ideas and opinions and make his own decisions, even when you strongly disagree.  Unless it’s a matter of safety, letting kids handle their own issues and make mistakes is the best way for them to become confident and competent.

For additional resources on this topic, please click on the PDF’s attached below:

AL POP Social networking and cyberbullying
MT Children and Bullying Guide for Parents

NH Why Do Some Children Bully

NC Bullies

 Tim Jahn is a Human Ecology Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. He can be reached at 631-727-7850 x. 331 or at

Gardening with Children Reaps Many Benefits

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich


Children of preschool age and older can reap many benefits from helping out in the garden. Learning how to help plants grow, can foster responsibility and patience in children. Families can become closer as children and parents share a common interest they can work on together.

To reap the full benefits of gardening with children, take them through the whole process from seed to soil to supper. Go together to the garden center to choose seeds, plants, and tools. Let children dig holes for seeds and plant some. Appoint children as official gardening helpers. Appropriate gardening activities for children aged 3 to 5 include collecting picked weeds, looking through soil to pick out rocks and pebbles, and supervised harvesting. If possible, let children help in preparing food from the garden.

Start Out Simple

Certain plants are easy to grow and sprout rather quickly so they can be harvested within one season. Sugar snap peas, beans, and pumpkins are good choices for beginning gardeners because the seeds are large and easy to handle. Jack-B-Little pumpkins are usually dependable and can be fun for children, who are too young to carve, to decorate at Halloween. Other easy-to-grow choices are radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce, patio varieties of tomatoes, herbs, marigolds, nasturtiums, and strawflowers.

Avoid great expectations. Children’s gardens won’t necessarily look like those designed by adults. The rows may not be straight and a few weeds may remain. Relax and revel in your child’s anticipation and excitement as the garden grows.

For safety reasons, children should not eat anything from the garden before they show it to an adult first. Avoid pesticides, especially on plants to be eaten. Make sure to wash all produce from the garden before it is eaten. Also, always have children wash their hands thoroughly after working in the garden.

Multiple Benefits

Besides produce to eat and flowers to admire, gardens can give you and your child multiple benefits:

  • Children may be more likely to eat vegetables that they grow themselves.
  • Planting a garden serves as a science lesson. Children see how the natural world works its wonders, how seasons change, and time marches on. .
  • Tending a garden teaches responsibility, concentration, and patience.
  • As the garden grows, so do children’s confidence and satisfaction of a job well done.
  • If results are less than expected, use that as an opportunity to teach children how to cope with disappointment and how to overcome obstacles by trying a new technique or different plant next year.

Nancy Olsen-Harbich is a Human Development Specialist at Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) of Suffolk County. For information about parenting programs or about gardening programs for children, call CCE at 631-727-7850.

Nuts and Seeds

By Rachel MacKinnon

Let’s Go Nuts!

Nuts and seeds are most satisfying snacks. You can add them to basically any dish, or even snack on them alone. What makes them so satisfying?

The nutritional components of most nuts and seeds will vary depending on type, but in general they are rich sources of healthy fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds such as phytochemicals. With all of these nutritional benefits, nuts and seeds are quite beneficial.

Nuts and seeds offer protection against oxidation, inflammation, cancer, and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Containing healthy fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, they help promote healthier cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. In return, this is how we get a protective factor again CVD. The recommended amount that is proven to show a protective factor is 30 grams of nuts (or 30 almonds, 15 cashews, 20 hazelnuts).

They are also a great way to feel satisfied. From the protein and fat content, nuts tend to keep us satisfied. They require a longer time to digest. The slower your body processes the nuts, the longer you’ll feel full and won’t reach for another snack. Try pairing nuts with an apple and have a snack which keeps you satisfied until your next meal. Nuts offer so much, so take a handful and enjoy. Remember, however, the importance of moderation and portion size.


Rachel MacKinnon is a Dietetic Intern with C.W. Post LIU with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program


Reading and Emotional Intelligence

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

Do you enjoy reading to your child? It is a bonding experience, holding that young child on your lap and turning the pages together in a brightly illustrated book. Even infants love being held and listening to your voice while being introduced to soft books which stimulate their senses. It is never too early to start reading to your young child. 

Not only is reading to a child a close and loving experience, it is also a way to foster emotional intelligence in a toddler or preschooler. By choosing to read quality fiction (which can be recommended to you by a librarian) with your children, you are fostering their understanding of other people and cultures. The story line stimulates their imagination and empathy, thereby increasing their emotional intelligence. In the October, 2013 issue of the journal “Science”, researchers at The New School in New York City found evidence that reading good fiction improves a child’s understanding of other people’s feelings and thoughts. By discussing ways the main characters interact in a book, a child begins to understand how others behave. This can have a positive socializing effect, teaching the child appropriate ways to care about and treat others. Interestingly, reading non-fiction does not have the same effect since it often neglects the human interaction angle while providing factual knowledge. 

Parents can make a significant difference in their children’s development of the ability to regulate their own emotions, to empathize, and to interact positively with others. This social-emotional intelligence is important for children of all ages, and it’s good to start when they are toddlers.  

Remember to read print books together, not e-books (with or without animation and sound effects). E-books can be distracting due to children wanting to “control” these books by pushing buttons on the electronic device. This prevents them from interacting with you, the parent. Researchers at the University of Michigan report in the April, 2019 journal “Pediatrics” that there is more back and forth dialog between parent and child with quality print books. You don’t need all the bells and whistles. What’s important is the child-parent conversation about main characters and plot. Children need human interaction and dialog in order to develop both socially and emotionally. You are your child’s first and most important teacher, so read together every day.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Let’s Eat What’s In Season

By Dinah Torres Castro

Long Island is a truly unique area of New York State. We have access to all kinds of food, including fresh fish and seafood. Now that the local Farmer’s Markets are open, we can access the freshest fruits and vegetables right in our own communities. Many of us already know that eating fresh is best, but here are more reasons that will reassure you about getting the most for your money, health, and nutrition:

  • Amazing flavor—when you eat freshly picked produce, flavor is at its peak. Vegetables are crispiest, most fragrant, juiciest, and colorful when eaten in season!
  • Optimal nutrition—vegetables that are picked when they are ripe and fully developed have been exposed to more sun. They have higher levels of antioxidants, so you are getting more nutrition from veggies by eating them in season.
  • It’s economic—you save money. It’s simple…when there is an abundance of a product, prices go down. Seasonal food is much cheaper to produce, and farmers would rather sell at a lower price than not at all. Take advantage and choose seasonal foods.
  • Helps our environment—seasonal foods are more likely to be locally grown and not trucked or flown in from far away (which can add to their cost and be harmful to our environment).
  • Helps our community—farmer’s markets are great places to create feelings of community and teach your children about where foods come from. It can also give farmers a chance to share their knowledge and engage with our local communities.
  • Fosters home cooking—eating seasonal foods encourages us to cook more and make better choices. Cooking at home gives us more control over what is in our food. You get to control how much salt, fat, or sugar you put into your food.
  • Encourages us to be more creative—eating seasonally challenges us to get more creative and come up with new, fun, and delicious dishes based on what you find at the market.
  • Adds variety to our diets—our bodies get more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals when we eat a wider variety of foods. We may miss nutrients if we only eat the same old stuff all the time.
  • Eating seasonally help us to support our changing needs—the natural cycle of produce is perfectly designed to support our health needs throughout the year. We associate apples with fall because apples ripen and are plentiful at that time of year. They are a perfect food to help our bodies get rid of excess heat and cool down before winter. In spring we have an abundance of leafy green vegetables that help us alkalize, detox, and lose some extra pounds after a long winter of heavier foods. In the summer our bodies need to cool down and stay hydrated. We have plenty of choices like fruits, berries, cucumbers, and watermelons available to help us stay cool and hydrated.

So take advantage of the fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables in your supermarkets and local farmer’s markets. For a list of local farmer’s markets, follow the link below:

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at

Boys today

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

It’s tough being a boy today. In past generations, male roles were clearly defined as warrior, soldier, or perhaps as sole provider for the family. As women have joined both the military and the workforce, boys’ roles and their purpose in society have become less clear. We have done a good job expanding society’s definition of femininity, but a poor job expanding our definition of masculinity. For example, men have learned to accept women in the workforce and to take pride in their wives’ and daughters’ full-time careers, but are women equally proud of their husbands and sons who are full-time, stay at home dads? Are men readily accepted as caregivers?

Another thing making it difficult being a boy is being taught to separate from one’s emotions at a very young age. By 8 years of age, many boys have learned not to cry, and that anger is the only acceptable emotion to express. Is it any wonder that our boys and young men are struggling? Boys and men account for the majority of suicides, fatal overdoses, gang involvement, and mass shooters. Additionally, boys are not doing as well as girls in elementary school through college, even in math and science where they previously excelled.

Clearly, we could be doing a better job to raise healthy boys. It is time we expand our definition of masculinity. Boys should be taught that expressing emotions does not mean that they are weak. They need to use coping skills other than violence and harmful substances, and to embrace roles other than economic provider. We need to provide good leadership and role models for boys who encourage connection and sensitivity, as well as confidence and strength. If society does not provide purpose and leadership opportunities for boys, they will look for it on the Internet, in social media, and by playing video games.

Here are some things adults can do to help boys grow into healthy young men:

  • Show affection towards boys on a regular basis.
  • Have family meals.
  • Point out stereotypes in media and comment on good role models.
  • Highlight alternatives to traditional male roles and show boys there are different ways they can follow their talents and still be valued.
  • Allow boys to express a full range of emotions and let it be okay for them to cry.
  • Encourage boys to be assertive but not aggressive.

For more information on raising boys:


“Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men” by Leonard Sax

“The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys are Struggling and What We Can Do about It” by Warren Farrell, PhD and John Gray, PhD

Watch: “The Mask You Live In” (You Tube)

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

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